The Pursuit of the Well-beloved and the Well-beloved (Penguin Classics)

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The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved: A Sketch of a Temperament appeared in the Illustrated London News between October and December , but was only reprinted when Penguin Classics reissued both the original serial version and the later rewrite, The Well-Beloved. This is the edition we recommend for the devoted Hardy fan: There are suggestive plot differences between the two versions of the novel.


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But not everyone had seen fit to praise the novel. But is it too easy to write this novel off as a failure? Readers who want to avoid spoilers might want to avoid the following brief plot summary. In short, The Well-Beloved has the feel of a fairy-tale to it, given its use of the motif and patterning of three. Throughout the course of the novel — which charts his development at intervals of twenty years — he falls in love with three generations of the same family: He nearly marries the third, but on the night before their wedding, Avice elopes with a younger man whom she loves.

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A Quest for the Eternal Feminine Ideal in “The Well-Beloved”

There are also a few marginal characters: In her introduction, Patricia Ingham explores Hardy's preoccupation with contingency and 'might-have-beens' in female-male relationships. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world.

With more than 1, titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators. Patricia Ingham is senior research fellow and reader at St. The central figure is a man obsessed both with the search for his ideal woman and with sculpting the perfect figure of a naked Aphrodite The Pursuit of the Well-beloved and the Well-beloved.

Essentially she was perhaps of no tangible substance; a spirit, a dream, a frenzy, a conception, an aroma, an epitomized sex, a light of the eye, a parting of the lips. God only knew what she really was; Pierston did not.

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Pierston compulsively tries to find in each of the women his unattainable ideal of a woman. As the narrator says:. The study of beauty was his only joy for years onward. In the streets he would observe a face, or a fraction of a face, which seemed to express to a hair's-breadth in mutable flesh what he was at that moment wishing to express in durable shape.

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He would dodge and follow the owner like a detective; in omnibus, in cab, in steam-boat, through crowds, into shops, churches, theatres, public-houses, and slums — mostly, when at close quarters, to be disappointed for his pains. Finally, Pierston gives up his obsessive pursuit for the Well-Beloved because he has come to realise that the Eternal Feminine ideal exists only in his artistic imagination and not in real life. The concept of the Eternal Feminine, introduced by the German poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe at the end of Faust , roused the imagination of many artists and writers. The Eternal Feminine impersonated beauty, truth, pure love, as well as the sublimated sexual energy.

He believed, it seems, that men and women have different, invariable features that cannot be altered by time or environment. In his major novels Hardy sought for the essence of femininity in his memorable characters such as Bathsheba, Eustacia, Thomasin, Tess, and Sue. His romantic love, or rather infatuation, is essentially narcissistic Hyman As Thomas Hetherington observes in the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of the novel:.

The Pursuit of the Well Beloved and the Well Beloved Penguin Classics jpg

The search for an Ideal at the expense of the real was not a new concept for Hardy. Angel Clare in Tess of the d'Urbervilles has some of the same qualities as Pierston.

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All demand a particular kind of perfection from the women of their choice; all are themselves disastrously flawed as lovers; and all eventually become aware of this. A generous and humane man, he embarks on a spiritual quest that is accompanied by perpetual frustration and genuine suffering.

His urge to return to the place of his birth, the Isle of Slingers Portland , is symptomatic of a search for a deeper sense of identity.